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If you had approx $200 to spend on tools

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
What would you guys recommend for a soldering station, tips, desoldering tools, etc. trying to keep the whole budget at around $200? I was thinking maybe a used (or new, if I could get it and everything else I'd need) Metcal SP200 as the station.

post #2 of 24
Hakko 936 & other stuff
post #3 of 24
Do you have a DMM yet? If not, I'd budget part of that towards a nice Fluke or other good brand. You'll need one.

Metcal makes nice irons, but I'm partial to the Hakko 936. Excellent build quality, lots of available tips and spot-on reliability. Check around to see if you can find a used one to save a few dollars. Same with the DMM.

Other than that, get a Radio Shack solder bulb for desoldering, and get one of the packs of probes, etc. that are soldering tools. I have a set of old dentist picks that are supremely useful, as well. I got them in a small hardware store, but ask your dentist what he does with his old picks. Maybe he'll give you some.

Get some copper alligator clips to use as heatsinks. Also, you'll want a pair of flush-cut wirecutters, a wirestripper, a pair of needlenose pliers, and a set of small screwdrivers, including Torx (hex) head drivers.

If you have any budget left over, look into getting an isolation transformer and a Variac.

You can always find used tools at a Hamfest, as well. Go look at the events calendars here:


If there's one in your area, go. You'll get good deals on tools and should have some boxes of tubes to dig through, as well.
post #4 of 24
metcals are good. the only thing i dont like is the auto shutoff feature, it'll turn itself off after a while of continuous run-time. annoying as hell if you're going to be soldering stuff for hours; just remember to look up and see if it's still on or not if your solder doesn't seem to be melting anymore.

uncle erik: torx and hex are not the same. hex screws are the screws with, well, a hexagon hole in the head. torx have a * type hole in the head.
post #5 of 24
Tangent has an excellent piece on his website about getting started in DIY and a selection of tools that are needed. He even groups the tools into three levels of investment: Starter, Journeyman, and Hobbyist's Dream:
Getting Started in Audio DIY
post #6 of 24
I suppose it depends on the deal you got on a used Metcal, including what tips they threw in, but you might be hard pressed to get a full set of soldering/desoldering tools for $200 going with this grade of iron, especially since the tips cost so much more too.

Staying underbudget is highly underrated, IMO. A Hakko plus a set of 10 assorted tips from eBay is the route I'd take with that budget, then (you don't mention exactly what tools you have or the scope of "tools" nor the jobs, but...) a desoldering iron w/bulb instead of spring-loaded type, desoldering wick, basic picks and probes (dental tool-like) and if working with a lot of SMT parts, a basic hot air station (generic ok, ~ $100). The latter would be something I'd wait on, buying tools before you actually *need* them can be a hobby onto itself.
post #7 of 24
Take a look at Circuit Specialists in Mesa, AZ also I bought a Solomon SR-976 ceramic temp controlled soldering iron from them that I have used a lot and am very satisfied with it.

I don't recall, but it may have been $35+shipping several years ago.

post #8 of 24
Desoldering braid, a $25-$50 cheapie multimeter, some sort of stand with a clip holder on it for holding wires or small boards, and the best soldering station you can afford.

EDIT: Oh yeah, wire strippers
post #9 of 24
Thread Starter 
Thanks, guys.

I've thought about the 936, but I intend to start working with Cardas cable and connectors, and I have read (correct me if I am wrong) that the 936 doesn't do the best job with Cardas stuff (burning off the enamel and getting the connectors hot enough to get a good joint, etc.). As for the other tools I need, the main thing is a desoldering iron of some sort. Of course I have braid (that's what I have always used up to this point), and I have pretty much everything else I need, or have access to everything else I need (wire cutters, strippers, pliers, screwdrivers, a multimeter - hex, torx, etc. - and pretty much everything else I could use, even variacs and oscilloscopes, 'cept a nice set of helping hands). I guess the proper question would be, if you had $200 to spend on a station and some sort of desoldering tool, including tips, etc., what would you recommend. If I have $ left over I might invest in a nicer DMM, but I don't *need* one now.
post #10 of 24
Thread Starter 
Any help please?
post #11 of 24
I don't see why the 936 wouldn't be able to burn off insulation or solder cables and connectors, providing (like any of 'em) you have a stout enough tip in it to transmit heat well.
post #12 of 24
Thread Starter 
OK, so I think I am going with the 936-12 from hmcelectronics along with the 900M-T-1.2D and 900M-T-3.2D tips; I guess it's possible that wherever I read of someone having difficulty with the 936 and Cardas cable, they were using too small a tip for the job. I figured I'd get the 3.2 mm tip for cable work and the 1.2 mm tip for any surface mount work I might have to do (the station comes with a 1.6 mm tip which should be good for through hole work). If anyone thinks I should look at something else as far as tips go, please let me know.

Also, I was thinking about getting the Hakko wound wire tip cleaner. I've read that they work better than a sponge and are less stress on the tips to boot. Plus, that puts my order right at the $100 mark, so free shipping is a bonus.

Any comments or corrections would be appreciated.
post #13 of 24
I like the wads of brass for tip cleaning but often get lazy and just use a damp towel (which is not good enough if significant flux gets burnt on).

Sometimes you can get a good deal on Hakko 900M tip 10-pack of assorted bits on ebay, for about $10 or so plus shipping. No guarantees at any given moment but it's worth a look before spending ~ $10 on only two tips.

Yes a 3.2mm is a much better choice for larger jobs. I suggest the 45 (or is it 60?) degree tips for surface mount, but your preference may vary.
post #14 of 24
I got a really nice Weller soldering station with digital temp control for about $50 on eBay not to long ago.

A decent DMM can be had for about $8 shipped from Harbor Freight: http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/cta...emnumber=90899

Get yourself a little pair of nippers, some cheap wire strippers, a tweaker tool, needle nose pliers, and a solder ball. You can easily have a nice setup for less than $200.
post #15 of 24
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by TheRobbStory View Post
Get yourself a little pair of nippers, some cheap wire strippers, a tweaker tool, needle nose pliers, and a solder ball. You can easily have a nice setup for less than $200.
I have read about the DMM from Harbor Freight and was planning on picking one of those up as well. As far as the other stuff, I already have (or have access to) all of those. I would like some input on a good set of helping hands though; most sold are generic (and the only ones I've been able to find locally are the ratshack ones with magnifying glass and sponge, extra stuff I don't need). If anyone has bought a set from an online vendor and they were good quality, can you please get me a link or description? Thanks again.
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